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Soft.

Over the last 2 1/2 months I’ve put close to 300 miles in on the treadmill and because of that I am getting soft. The treadmill has made me a weaker runner this winter. The steel and iron have given way to fluff and dough. I no longer can honestly look in the mirror and see that hardened runner that looked back at me last fall. Running on the treadmill over the winter has taken that all away.

What’s that? How is it that I’ve managed to run close to 600 miles in 4 months and gone soft? How has my body responded in such an unexpected way?

…Oh, did you just ask about my body?

That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about my will.

Yes, it is not my body that has turned to fluff and dough – it is my will. And if I’m going to be completely honest, will is probably the wrong word. When I get into a race I will buckle down and fight. I will push my body as hard as it will go. I will walk away from a race knowing I ran hard. So it’s not that part of my will that has gone soft.

I’m having some trouble putting my finger on it. For the last few days, the weather here in Boston has been miserable – cold, wet and rainy. In fact, I don’t know if it has stopped raining since Friday. It didn’t really bother me on Friday. I was still high from my Thursday Lunch Half Marathon. But on Saturday I really started to get an itch to run. You runners know the feeling – the legs get restless, the horses want to be let out of the barn. I looked out my window and saw some kid running by. Normally, my first thought would be, Oh man! I wish I were that kid right now! But no. You wanna know what my first thought was? It was, Jesus that kid is nuts! It’s 32°, windy and raining cats and dogs out there!

I jumped back from the window.

What the frak was that? I asked myself. But it was true. It was 32°, windy and raining cats and dogs. It looked miserable. I was so confused. My legs and body wanted to run, but my brain was telling me, Not out there buddy. I did end up putting in 10 miles – in the comfort of my basement, on the treadmill, while watching 2 old episodes of Star Trek (yeah, I’m not afraid to admit it – I’m a total sci-fi geek). I broke a sweat, my legs were happy – as was the rest of me in the pleasant 68°.

I told myself not to worry too much about my earlier reaction and in fact told a friend that I might run 7 1/2 miles on Sunday to her first 5K to root her on and then run home. I knew it wasn’t going to be warm, but what the heck, it’d be an easy way to get 15 – 18 miles in with a nice little break in the middle. She mentioned that it looked like it was going to rain but I shrugged it off. I shrugged it off, that is, until I got up the next morning and realized that in was only in the high 30’s and the rain was even stronger than the day before. I wished her well on Facebook.

As the rainy day progressed, I found myself on dailymile and twitter, cheering on friends like Michelle and Pigtailsflying for the rain soaked long runs they were taking.  I’ll be joining you guys soon I would write, silently adding in my head in my basement, on my treadmill, in front of the TV, where it’s dry and 68°.

The final straw came last night as I was picking up pizza for the family for dinner. Both on the way to and from the pizza place I saw runners – true, hardcore runners – out there, putting in their miles. They were braving the cold wind and rain while I sat in the comfort of my car. I caught myself thinking, Man, those are some crazy runners!

And that’s when I realized that my treadmill had made me soft.

There was a time when I would have laughed at the weather and then run like it wasn’t there. That time is no more. Maybe I’ve gotten old. Maybe I’ve become wiser. But there is part of me that is very much afraid that perhaps, just perhaps, I’ve become soft.

I will run in the rain again.

I love running in the rain.

Just when it’s about 35° warmer.

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